PENTAGON HIJACKER - Used cash for ticket after debit card rejectedgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
Pentagon hijacker used cash to buy plane ticket in New Jersey after debit card rejected
By WAYNE PARRY The Associated Press 10/10/01 3:19 PM
TOTOWA, N.J. (AP) -- Their unsigned Visa debit card was rejected by the travel agency computer, and the clerk wouldn't let them write a check for the two first-class airline tickets to Los Angeles they wanted to buy.
So Hani Hanjour and Majed Moqed drove off, and came back a half hour later with a bank envelope stuffed with cash. They showed phony Virginia drivers' licenses, and gave a fake phone number that turned out to be a non-working extension at a local college.
But they came away from the A.T.S. travel agency on Aug. 31 with a single ticket for American Airlines Flight 77, which authorities say Hanjour piloted into the Pentagon less than two weeks later, killing 189 people.
The owner of the agency, who insisted on anonymity because he fears for the safety of his family, recounted a chain of events that showed the determination of the two soon-to-be hijackers to overcome any obstacle to carrying out their murderous plot.
Moqed did all the talking during the transaction, the owner said.
A travel agent became suspicious of the men when they showed out-of-state identification and a Visa debit card that was not signed. When the card was rejected by the credit card computer verification system for an unspecified reason, the men asked to write a check to cover the $1,842 cost for two first-class tickets to Los Angeles on Sept. 11.
But the agency's policy is to hold personal checks for 10 days until they clear, so the pair returned about 30 minutes later with cash, and only bought one ticket, issued in Hanjour's name, the agency owner said.
The agent who issued the ticket has been distraught since the terrorist attacks.
"She can't even sleep," the owner said. "We're all a little paranoid. They were right down the street. They could have come in here strapped to a bomb."
The agency is a mile from the Paterson neighborhood where Hanjour and Moqed shared an apartment. Neighbors have reported seeing several other men they later identified from FBI photos as hijackers.
FBI agents in Newark have said at least six hijackers have been traced to Paterson, the state's third-largest city, with a large Arab-American population.
On the morning of the attacks, the travel agency first received a telephone call from American Airlines expressing condolences that a passenger -- apparently Hanjour -- who booked his flight from that agency was among those on board the ill-fated jet.
It was followed a short time later by a call from an FBI agent in Washington, D.C., who asked for information about the man who bought his ticket, the owner said.
FBI agents then visited the travel agency and showed employees a photo of Hanjour.
Workers who were present when the pair were in the store "picked him out and said, `Yeah, that's the guy,"' the owner said. They later identified Moqed from another FBI photo.
Sandra Carroll, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Newark office, would not confirm or deny the travel agency owner's claims, citing the agency's ongoing investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks.
Information travel agency employees gave to agents helped them confirm that Hanjour had been driving a Chrysler Concorde rented in Wayne, and led them to bank video footage showing Hanjour withdrawing money in northern New Jersey, the owner said.
Employees found it odd that Moqed didn't initially specify a departure city when he asked about tickets to Los Angeles, choosing Washington only after a computer-generated list identified the nation's capital as the cheapest departure city for that day.
Hanjour showed employees a Virginia driver's license listing an address in Falls Church, a Washington suburb, the owner said.
When asked for a phone number, Hanjour "pulled out what looked like a Rolodex and just pointed to a number," the owner said. It turned out to be a non-working extension at Montclair State University.
-- Anonymous, October 10, 2001
Very interesting article, Old Git.
FWIW, Jacksonville, Florida, has the fourth largest Arab-American community in the US. We gotta lot of sandwich shops in our area.
Wonder which cities are #1 & #2?
-- Anonymous, October 10, 2001